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  MSNBC    Andrea Mitchell Reports    News/Business. Interviews with political  
   figures with host Andrea Mitchell. New.  

    February 11, 2013
    10:00 - 10:59am PST  

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zoirnkts right now on "andrea mitchell reports" live pictures from vatican city. where pope benedict xvi shocked the world today and some of his closest advisors announcing he will step down as the leader of the 1.2 billion roman catholics at the end of this month. he will be the first pontiff to abductate in 719 years. >> today signing a lack of strength. the pope said i have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted me. reactions are pouring in. >> i think pope benedict xvi legacy is his engagement of faith with the modern world. >> i feel particular -- a particular bond with him and a note of sadness, to be honest with you. on the other hand, my appreciation for him, which was already high, is enhanced a bit
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because with the sense of realism that he has such an esteem for the office of the successor of st. peter, which is what the pope sshg the bishop of rome, the successor of st. peter, he says, you know, i may not be up to it now, and perhaps i can best serve jesus and his church and his people by stepping aside. i have to admire him. >> and here at home one day ahead of president obama's state of the union address, vice president biden is meeting with law enforcement officials in philadelphia about reducing gun violence. while victims of gun violence, like former congresswoman gabby giffords, takes a stand. >> we have a problem where we shop, where we pray, where our children go to school. take it from me. congress must act. >> and this hour president obama
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will be awarding the medal of army to staff sergeant clinton for courage under fire in afghanistan. he is only the fourth living recipient of the military's highest honor for service in iraq or afghanistan. good day. i'm andrea mitchell live in washington. a stunning announcement this morning from rome. pope benedict xvi is abdicating his office. joining me now is ann thompson, lee at st. patrick's cathedral in new york city, of course, and nbc vatican analyst george weigel is here with me, and we begin with claudio. you were shocked by this. people in st. peter's square didn't even know that it was happening. tell us what happened. >> no, they didn't, andrea. we came around here after the shocking news, and all the cameras came down, and what the tourists saw is what's going on. everybody was just wandering around st. peter's square like it was a normal day, of course, and when we told them that the
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pope was abdicating they were shocked. they couldn't even -- they didn't even know that a pope could abdicate, as a matter of fact. in a way money knew in a way because the last pope that did that was about 700 years ago. it was in 1294. it seemed like it was impossible in modern times, but pope benedict xvi hinted that in 2010 and a mof times after that that if he felt that his strength wasn't such that he could carry on the very important duties of a pope, that he would think about it at least, but nobody saw that coming. this morning he announced that in latin so it made it even more difficult for people to get that through that little speech that he gave to a number of cauldrons in a low key event. he just passed it on as an everyday kind of duty, and that was it. that's pope benedict xvi gone. that was the shocking part. that he didn't make a big deal out of it.
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>> as we understand it, he is iffing to vacate the office. he will abdicate at the end of the month, which is february 28, of course, and then the college of cardinals will convene. claudio, he has apointed a mof cardinals, so it is a full group of cardinals that will be making this critical decision. >> indeed. in a way if you look back at what happened in the last year or two years of his pontificate, he seemed like he had this at the back of his mind for a while now because he has come out with a number of surprised -- it's when you create new cardinals to hype up and increase the number of cardinals that will go to the sistine chapel to elect a new pope. you think was he already thinking about abdicating back then? there are cardinals that will be eligible to elect a new pope at
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the end of february. well, who comes next? we don't know. >> and one person who knows the inside story is greg burke. i think we have you on the lean now. the vatican spokesman, greg burke. greg, tell us the back story of this, when you first knew that the pope was even considering taking this momentous step. >> well, all of us knew, but none of us paid a lot of attention two years ago when the pope mentioned in a long interview -- there was a book interview "light of the world" and he mentioned that "pope could resign. he said he hadn't thought about doing it in the moment. it was a very difficult from then, but he said there are occasions when the pope can resign. there are occasions when the pope should resign. that was a couple of years ago, and i think that was a warning bell. i didn't find out please until early this morning. i got a call to come in early, which i did, and i was told about it, and then, of course, it just happened a couple of hours later. it is certainly a surprise because historically it's such a surprise, but knowing cardinal ratzinger, it's not such a surprise. >> greg, what are the next steps from inside the vatican as you
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begin this extraordinary process, the historic process that we have only seen in our lifetime several teams, but certainly we've mefr seen in abdication. >> right. it's not all that much different. there's a saying that the romans say. the one pope dies and you make a new one, and that's sort of true this time around as well. essentially living in monastery on vatican grounds. what happens now they'll start preparing the onclaif and they'll be finishing the monastery. they've been remodeling it, and they'll be finishing the monastery to which the pope will go, of course. it's unprecedented from that point of view, but i think there's a bright note on this and that is that the pope finally gets to do what he has wanted to do for the better part of 25 years, which is go and study, read his books, reflect, and pray. >> and have you seen from your perspective have you seen him cutting back on travel, on some
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of the more own russ duties because of health reasons in recent months? >> well, that was very clear. there was only one trip set for this year so far, which was brazil this summer for the world wroout day. the pope had not set up any other trips, and i think that was segment. that was a sign that -- it wasn't a sign that he was going resign, but it was certainly a sign that he was cutting back on his schedule. >> we thank you on a very busy day for taking time to bring us up-to-date. >> tom has covered the catholic church and the papacy for more than two decades. you've been through the process of choosing a new pope before. it's a very complicated and secret process. >> it is a secret process. the 118 cardinals who elect the new pope, andrea, will stay in a dormitory inside vatican city. they are not supposed to have any contact with the outside
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world. once that process begins. we'll see if that happens. it took about a day and a half to elect cardinal ratzinger to make hem pope benedict xvi last time. this time it could take a lot longer. just, you know, peek looking at sort of the early candidates note there's no clear favorite among the vatican experts. at this point in time a couple of interesting things to keep in mind as we watch this. most of the electors -- i think all of the electorses all the cardinals were appointed by john paul ii and benedict xvi. the growth in the catholic church these days is in latin america. is in asia and is in africa. will they go outside europe and possibly choose a pope from one of the other church is growing? that's one of the questions a lot of people are asking today.
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>> the author of the pew book evangelical catholicism, deep reform in the 21st century church. got a copy here. just hot off the presses. to write this book you deeply reporting and, of course, you have known pope benedict xvi for 23 years since he was cardinal ratzinger. tell us about this process, first of all, the decision which, as you have said and others, this comes from great humility. >> it's a real reflection of the character of the man. this is someone who has never thrust himself into the public eye. he is shy scholar. he is extraordinarily lucid mind, and if he decided in conscience and prayers, as he put it together, that he could not give the church the service the church deserved, then i think we ought to take him on face value at that. in this book evangelical catholicism, i describe in the last chapter some of the
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qualities that the cardinals will be looking for in the next pope. a man of evangelism, someone who will take the message to the world and indeed around the world. a man of judgment. a man who knows how to pick good suborder nants and then let them do their job. a man of linguistic skills. the catholic chr is a multi-lingual enterprise, and the pope needs a lot of language skills. deep spiritual resources. there's a sense in which, as i saw of john paul ii and as we've seen it with benedict xvi the pope bears the weight of the whole church, including the sins and the people in the church on his own back in a singular way. it takes a certain kind of character to be able to absorb that without being spiritually destroyed by it. >> drained by it.
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>> drained by it. >> to what extent do you think going back to what ann was just suggesting, sxipt to ask ann a follow-up and a question in a second, but to what extent is it possible this would be a noneuropean -- >> i think it's entirely possible. i think it's entirely possible. this is now a world church in a way it has not been before. the demographic center of gravity in the catholic church is the global self. at a recent sinod of bishops in rome, from all over the world, in october i believe it was the archbishop of an ethiopians, why are all these europeans here? the church is dying where you are. the church is alive where we are. the question of what's the growing end of the church and how do you address this faith deficit in the historic way of catholicism, the western world, is going to be high on the agenda, it would seem to me, of
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the cardinals meeting in conclave and in the informal conversations which let's not forget began about six hours ago that will precede the formal meetings before the conclave is closed. >> you've touched on something that ann thompson, you know very well, that there is a sight of this that is political. not in the grungy sense of the word, but in the larnler sense that there are factions, correct, and as you have been covering this in the past with john paul ii and the asinges of benedict xvi, you have a feel for how that work as well. >> well, i think the thing -- the thing for people to understand here, andrea, is that there is a clear difference between what some of the people in the pews want and what the leadership believes in. you know, there's a lot of speculation today. would the new pope consider married priests or women priests or gay marriage or sexual
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reproduction -- reproductive freedom? you have to remember the cardinals that are going to elect the next pope are just as conservative as pope benedict xvi and pope john paul ii. george can certainly speak to this. nobody is expecting sort of a great turn in the theological direction of the catholic church. what is -- what will be interesting and cardinal spoke to that this morning. the archbishop of wash washington. he said what is important in today's age, given 24 hour news cycles and our constant communication, is the men industry of presence and that means traveling the world. especially to asia, latin america, and africa where the church is growing, and that was something that clearly this pope felt he could no longer do, and it's a really, really important part of the job. >> and i saw that in havana when he was last march.
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it was a very limited communication or contact with the people. it wasn't like in the early days when we saw john paul iind first in alaska and then in denver with the youth ministry going into the crowds and reaching out to people. claudo, what would be the reaction many rome if will were a choice of a non-european? >> i mean, the italians in particular got used to a non-italian at first when john paul ii was elected. well, of course, that was difficult for them. the pope was always meant to be italian, and they accepted him and embraced him, and, of course, he became one of the most popular popes in history. well, then came joseph ratzinger, a german, but then at that point they could choose to a non-italian being pope. if our catholics, and especially catholics in rome and in italy, are they ready for a noneuropean? yes, i think so.
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they have come to understand that what really matters is the passion, the stamina, the strength, and the message that a pope sends out and how he delivers it. they embrace that and understand that the world is now a worldwide church. that the catholic church is now a worldwide church. yes, i think there are ready. they're not -- i don't think they are particularly too bothered about the fact that the next pope will be italian. they just want to know who is next because that's always a massive event here in rome. when the white smoke comes out of the sistine chapel, people will be charging here down the big street from rome into the vatican because everyone wantston who their new pope is. that's exciting. >> george, you talk about the challenges that the first has faced. is that going to be part of this conversation, the scandals here, and else where in the world.
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in ireland. >> i think very much ireland is on everybody's mind. andrea, i think what these cardinals are going to be reflecting on is the fact that the church is growing when the goss pet is preached without apology. the church is dying. catholic light is the winner of the day. who can express the fullness of the catholic nate a positive way that lifts up the dignity of human beings and in a vast variety of cultural situations. it's almost an impossible job, but somebody has to do it, and some one will be chosen. there is a modern church as well, and the book is evangelical catholicism. it's never more relevant than now and written by someone that knows benedict xvi and knew john
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paul ii very well, and we'll be talking to you in a bit. thank you very much. what's on the president's mind today? that's next. at the white house president obama is preparing for a state of the union speech focussing on the economy, while vice president biden at this hour is in philadelphia pushing for new gun laws. we're breaking it down next in "the daily fix." this is andrea mitchell reports only here on msnbc. with tasty grilled flavor and goodness to savor ♪ ♪ friskies grillers blend. ♪ feed the senses. a great cup of coffee should be easy as one, two... well, just one. new single serve cafe collections from maxwell house now available for use in the keurig k-cup brewer. always good to the last drop. tell me you have good insurance. yup, i've got... [ voice of dennis ] ...allstate. really? i was afraid you'd have some cut-rate policy. nope, i've got... [ voice of dennis ] the allstate value plan. it's their most affordable car insurance -- and you still get an allstate agent.
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president obama is putting the finishing touches on his state of the union address for his second term. the first of the second term. white house officials are segment nauling that he wants to focus on improving the economic plight of the middle class with investments in education and clean energy, enfrom a structure and manufacturing. that is not a prescription for getting a budget deal with house republicans. joining me now for our daily fix, chris calliza.
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chris, another big topic, of course, will be guns, and they're going to be a number of guests in the chamber of both members principalically democratic members, house members, as well as, of course, mrs. obama who are victims of gun violence. right now at this hour the vice president is in philadelphia meeting with law enforcement officials, with mibz of congress, of course, the mayor, local police cheefdz, and talking about this just as tle there was a shooting at the courthouse in bloomington, delaware. >> right. >> where do you think the press will try to move the gun debate first in the state of the union? >> sure, i mean, look, his proposal is out there. vice president biden led the task force. you know, what i wonder about is how aggressive he will be and how much time he will devote to the topic of guns, andrea. you know, this is a speech that usually runs about an hour, maybe a little bit more. everyone is trying to get mentions of their issues in a
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speech like this. the president has said before that guns -- that limiting gun violence is something that he will spend all the sort of political energy and power he has on. what is that mean? does that mean universal background checks? does that mean some kind of limits on high capacity ammunition clips? it seems unliable -- i guess i would be surprised if the president said the time is now we need the assault weapons ban simply because the politics seem too frought for that. does he go for what he thinks is achievable, or does he go for what he really wants? does he go as big as possible and then sort of settle for what he can get? i do not know yet, but i do know we're going to hear from hem about it in the speech. >> and gabby giffords and her husband, mark kelly, speaking on a new television ad partly financed by mike bloomberg personally as part of their effort on gun laws. here's a little bit of the new
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ad that went on tv today. >> we have a problem where we shop, where we pray, where our children go to school, but there are solutions. we can agree on. even gun owners like us. take it from me, congress must act. let's get this done. >> and it's as compelling as her testimony was, and we know that one seed is paralyzed, that she still has the problems that she's overcoming with therapy. that's a very powerful testimony from someone who is a gun owner, and that is part of this message. >> i was going to say the most important line everybody i think knows gabby giffords' story and sort of weather wherever you are in the part sfwlan he'll sort of
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wowed and amazed by her courage. i they the most important part of that ad, though, andrea, is we gun owners, which is mark kelly and gabrielle giffords in their testimony as well as in this add vsd we own guns. we're talking about responsible restreks. the problem with the gun debate, at least it's always been a problem with, but the problem that's always been the case is that it's black or white. it's either no guns or no restrictions. that common senses middle ground that is gotten lost amid that political fight that sort of puts you in one camp or the other. gabrielle giffords and mark kelly are trying to say, look, there is common ground. you see in the ath thad nine out of ten people support universal background checks. there are things we can agree on that don't mean we're talking everybody's guns away and don't mean that no restrictions on gun control -- gun ownership are possible. the question is that third way doable, workable, in a political environment like congress? >> and, of course, as mark kelly
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has been pointing out. tucson wouldn't have happened in there were background checks. there's an economic message that the president is trying to convey. how difficult is this if he does not lay out the kind of specific alternative to the sequester that republicans are demanding in the house side? >> well, here's what's hard, ab drae. if he is going to talk about how we need to invest in infrastructure and education and all these other things, republicans will say wait, wait, wait. the problem we have is a spending problem. the deficit is running out of control. i would point you on pew that did some fascinating polling about people's priorities in january 2009 and january 2013. the fastest majority is reducing duj been fets. it will be interesting how much he focus on that behavior. snoo meanwhile, you are looking at live pictures of vatican
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city. the college of card mals will be convene says next month. could they picture first nonusual eastern to eat the national catholic church. you are watching the east room at the white house. president obama will be awarding the nation's highest military honor this hour for courage under fire in afghanistan to staff sergeant clinton. that's live in a fupts. you're watching andrea mitchell reports only on msnbc. humans. even when we cross our t's and dot our i's, we still run into problems. namely, other humans. which is why at liberty mutual insurance, auto policies come with new car replacement and accident forgiveness if you qualify. see what else comes standard at libertymutual.com. liberty mutual insurance. responsibility.
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otherworldly things. but there are some things i've never seen before. this ge jet engine can understand 5,000 data samples per second. which is good for business. because planes use less fuel, spend less time on the ground and more time in the air. suddenly, faraway places don't seem so...far away. ♪ eyelove the guy, and you know, one of the things everybody notices is his humility. it's almost in the gij he shrugged and said, boy, compared to john paul ii i don't know if i'm up to this, but with god's grace and mercy, i'll give it my best shot, and he has done well for almost eight years. he is winsome in his humble acknowledgment of his frailty
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and weakness. i think that's touched all of our hearts. >> cardinal dolan with matt and savannah. within a half hour of the news breaking walked over from st. pat's to the "today" show set. we're following all of the reaction here at home and, of course, across the globe to pope benedict's surprising decision to abdicate his position as leader of the catholic church. looking ahead to a papal process that is going to seem familiar to some, but it does have one major difference. professor john garvey joins us now. the president of the catholic university of america joining me by phone. president garvey, thank you for being with us. the big difference sshgs of course, that the pope is alive to witness the succession process, and there has got to be conversations along the margins tooz what would pope benedict xvi want. >> you got to wonder what affect that will have on the process, don't you? it isn't something we've seen in our lifetime or for centuries, for that matter. i don't think anybody has a clue. your guess is as good as mine.
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>> i was reading your statement, president garvey, and as the catholic university of america president, you spoke of his theological wisdom and what he imparted in the importance of catholic education. could you speak to that and to the reaction of young people as they look towards a change of leadership of the church? >> yes. to start with, the second point first, i've been talking to some of our students as well as my brothers and sisters about this, and one of the reactions that i got from one of them was, gosh, it's sort of like our dad saying he was going to resign as being our dad. you can't do that. it was a surprise, and i think it's deeply felt by people who look to the pope as the holy father, as catholics do. it's rare that somebody who is as accomplished as theologian as benedict was will be pope. they're all great, holy, and
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wise men, but they have their own particular skills, and this pope is somebody who is especially interested in catholic higher education, and wrote a lot about it. we have our press that's publishing a book of his speeches on catholic higher education and in another month or two, and i think he spoke to a real difference between the way catholic universities think about their job and the way other kinds of universities do. that faith as well as reason plays a role in what we teach, and that we should concern ourselves with people's relationship with god not just imparting knowledge of mandarin chinese and chemical engineering. >> john garvey, here with me, by the way, at the studio. as an old friend of yours, george weigel, and, george, we were talking about this very subject. you and john garvey are at that intersection where you deal with the future of the church, with young people, with the challenges that educators have. perhaps you want to raise some
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of those issues as well. >> john is right. this is the most accomplished intellectual pope in a very long time, although he succeeded in a world class intellectual in john ii. what was amazing to me about benedict xvi is how this span of deep learning, he may be the most learned man in the world. could in his sermons, his homilies, his little addresses at the wednesday audience, distill all of that learning into really solid but accessible material for people that don't have specialized training in theology or philosophy, bhaefr. i think that is where the pastor's heart in this man and the teacher's heart in this man came through. i told you a moment ago when we were off camera that he is the only man i have ever met in my life that when you ask him a
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serious question, he reflects and then answers in complete paragraphs. he has a remarkably lucid mind, and he is a great teacher. that's going to be missed, and i think young people felt that. i think they thought this is -- this is a wise man who is worth listening to. >> you touched, john garvey, on how this transition is being received by your students, by your undergraduates at catholic university, and your graduate students. is there a feeling of sort of searching now as to where the future of the church goes? is this a time of real reflection for them as well? >> i think that describes it well. i don't know whether the concern that our students feel in that first instance where the rest of the church will go. it's more their own personal reaction to being sort of orphaned for a time within the church. although the question you raise about what the next pope will
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mean for the future of the church is something that will affect them more than the rest of us. >> and, of course, the church has been challenged in america in the last decade by scandal, by a declining attendance. catholic schools, not catholic university, but other catholic schools have also been challenged at the perish level. we've seen the closures of some of the schools at the elementary and high school level. how important is this transition? >> you know, i was saying to somebody earlier this morning, unlikely as it seems, what a great time this would be for an american pope for this reason. that one of the great challenges that the church faces in the modern world is the one that benedict tried to deal with in his papacy in western europe. the increasing secularization of the culture and focus on materialism and other kinds of ideologies that pose a greater threat to the church sometimes than outright persecution does, and in america i think we're going through the same kind of
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experience. there's a sort of popular atheism that's no longer tabu to speak about, and i think that's an example you see many others in charles murray spoke in coming apart about how we are becoming less religious as a culture. not just as catholics, but many other faiths. that's a great challenge for the catholic church in the mechanics century. >> of the 118 cardinals who are going to be convening, are there any americans in that group who are real leaders and have seniority, george? >> yes. cardinal of chicago is one of the most highly respected members of the college of cardinals, without a doubt. i think cardinal dolan. he did a fine job when he was made a cardinal and addressing the entire college of cardinals and saying the church of the
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future has to be a missionary enterprise. this is the great theme of this moment. we're passing from institutional maintenance to evangelical activism. that was the theme of vatican two. that was the theme of john paul ii. it's the theme of benedict xvi, and it's going to be a very interesting ride into the rest of the 21st century. >> thank you for your wisdom, and john garvey, thank you for joining us today. we really appreciate that. >> thank you very much. >> and looking ahead to the next 24 hours, the president planning to pivot back to the economy in tomorrow night's state of the yoon. we'll get a preview from the man who knows exactly what's going on behind the scenes at the white house. right away former white house communications director, speechwriter, don bair joining us next. this is $100,000.
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>> the president is expected for focus on his economy in the state of the union address. joining me now is former clinton white house communications director and responsible for bill clinton's state of the union addresses and this is 1996. it's the launch of the second term. this is awe key moment in bill clinton's state of the union. >> we face no imminent threat, but we do have an enemy. the enemy of our time is inaction, so tonight i issue a call to action. action by this congress, action by our states, by our people to prepare america for the 21st century. >> as yogi would say, deja vu all over again. the praez will go before a house republican dominated chamber. and say inaction and grade lock
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is our enemy. >> i love that line because i helped write it. there are very few, as you know, with bill clinton, you can say that one survived and that one survived. it is amazing. right? how similar these circumstances are. in fact, if anything now the gridlock is much worse. the need for action is more important, and the need for a president coming into his second term to reinstill a sense of plushment that we're going to get good things done is critical. >> also reminded of the age of big government is over. >> the era of big government. >> that was 1996. that was the year before. >> and that was, of course, bill clinton sort of playing to the crowd and saying we are a different kind of democrat. >> right. it was bill clinton, the new democrat. he was satisfying that the age of old-fashioned big government solutions to all of our problems was over, but, you know, there's a second part to that sentiment, which is that we can't go back to the time when we left everyone to themselves either.
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he was trying to create a third way. >> how tough is the environment right now inside the white house? take us behind the scenes, behind that curtain. >> what are they doing right now? >> what are they doing right now, and the pressure on staff and the speechwriting team and what happens when they come back with marks on it. >> every white house is different, right? i don't know this one firsthand. i know the one that -- they've got more than 24 hours to go. they're still constructing. they're still writing. he is still trying to figure out what his voice is and this president obama and which parts are in and out. the biggest challenge of all is you want to keep this to about an hour in length, which as you know in the clinton administration, we didn't always accomplish. >> how about like never? >> we did. that last speech came in at 58 minutes. i was very proud of him. >> there's a lot of -- there's probably still people from
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different parts of the government and some of the interest groups and they're still saying if we mention this and that. there's still marketing. >> you want to avoid a laundry list that doesn't have any poetry in it. >> there needs to be a theme, right? there needs to be a theory of the case and what it is you're saying here, and then the various pieces, the policies need to reinforce that. that's the real challenge in these speeches. >> dfrs the health care speech. i. >>ent wasn't there yet. you weren't responsible for that one. that's when the wrong speech was loaded. >> we're not going to have that. >> he won't be rewriting it at the last minute. >> i don't think. the practice with this president has been that he gets it pretty tucked in going into this, and ten he can practice. you never know what's going to happen, though? there's always something. i can remember for this speech, the 1997 speech, first one of the second term, we're
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practicing in the family theater in the white house which is traditional to go through and let the president use a teleprompter to practice. when mike mccurry, the press secretary came rushing up to me at the back of the room and said he just announced that the o.j. verdict in the civil trial is going to come in while the president is speaking. >> that's when we had the split screen state of the union where you saw the -- the other was the president of the united states. >> these things are always a high wire act, and you have to roll with the punches. >> our medal of honor recipient and military analyst colonel jack jacobs. jack, this is such ae moment. there were very few medal of honor recipients, and it's rare
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to have he is not there for himself but for all those that can't be there. that on that battlefield that day there were many acts of valor, and he represents them and represents all the men and women who sacrificed for us. it's an important day for the country and for the armed forces. it looks like it's a really important day for the individual, but all individuals feel the same way about it, that they are there representing all those men and women who can't be there. >> it says something of the nation. we don't honor our heroes often enough, but this is a tradition that goes back so many decades, so many wars, but to see someone who served in afghanistan, a war
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that we do not discuss enough. 60,000 troops still in the field even though we're drawing down. they are at risk every second, every minute of the day of the day and night, and here we're at least talking about the valor of one human being representing as you say them all. >> with all the people who have served, we do not pay sufficient attention to it, and this is only the fourth living recipient for any conflict since vietnam. it says a great deal about the distance between the people who are being searched and the people who are serving. i think it's really important that we bring the heroism of our men and women to the forefront and celebrate it as representative of what's being done as often as we possibly can. there are only 79 living recipients with the medal of honor. this will be the 08th. when i was decorated, there are almost 400. a lot of time has passed since
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then. >> as we hear hail to the chief, the president is entering the room, so let's go live to the white house and experience this ceremony. >> staff sergeant clinton -- >> let us pray. might where i eternal god for who we come, for who we belong and in service we find peace, hear our prayer. centuries ago were written to be called in a spirit to the faithful servants of truth and
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justice. arm yourself, be men of valor, be in readiness for the wlikt. it is better for us to perish in battle, look upon the outrage of our nation. lord, god, we pause to recognize the men of valor who in readiness for the conflict, the battle of cannedish in ponda. their sacred story is one of life and of death. the self-less service faithfully rendered at the moment of truth. he belongs to that small band of black knights. as a nation grateful for the spirit of the men who follow and the man who leads. we offer our gratitude for the actions of those men that day which were the actions of as the author wrote an intense god, short and wiry. thank you, oh god, for the honor of claiming their sacred story and writing it into our nation's history.
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bestoe our nation's highest honors upon staff sergeant romesha and recognize his actions that day grant unto us your holy presence. we pray your abiding grace and eteshl mercy upon the families. the friends who gave the last fullmer, devotion that day. staff sergeant vernon martin. staff sergeant dustin, staff substantialingent joshua hart, sergeant joshua kirk, sergeant michael scuza, sergeant christopher griffin, specialist steven mace, and pfc kevin thompson. we ask your blessing blessing u all of our service men and women at home and abroad as they support and defend our constitution. grant wisdom and guidance to those who lead our nation as sergeant romesha's example. we ask this and pray in your holy name. amen.
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>> please be seated, everybody. good afternoon. and on behalf of michelle and myself, welcome to the white house. every day at the white house we receive thousands of letters from folks all across america. and at night upstairs in my study i read a few. about three years ago, i rece e received a letter from a mom in west virginia. her son stephen, a specialist in the army, just 21 years old, had given his life in afghanistan. she had received the condolence letter i had sent to her family as i send to every family of the fallen. and she wrote me back.
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mr. president, he said, you wrote me a letter telling me that my son was a hero. i just wanted you to know what kind of hero he was. my son was a great soldier, she wrote. as far back as i can remember, stephen wanted to serve his country. she spoke of how he loved his brothers in b-troop. how he would do anything for them. and of the brave actions that would cost stephen his life, she wrote, his sacrifice was drib by pure love. today, we are honored to be joined by stephen's mother vanessa and his father larry. please stand. vanessa and -- [ applause ] larry.
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we're joined by the families of the seven other patriots who also gave their lives that day. can we please have them stand so we can acknowledge them, as well? [ applause ] we're joined by members of bravo troop whose courage that day was driven by pure love. and we gather to present the medal of honor to one of these soldiers. staff sergeant clinton l. romesha. clint, this is our nation's highest military decoration. it reflects the gratitude of our entire country. and so we're joined by members of congress, leaders from across
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our armed forces including secretary of defense leon panetta, chairman of the joints chiefs of staff marty dempsey, army secretary and army chief of staff genere ordearo. we are joined by iron horse soldiers. and members of the medal of honor society who today welcome you in to their ranks. now, despite all of this attention, you may already have a sense that clint is a pretty humble guy. we just spent sometime together in the oval office. he grew up in lake city, california. population less than 100. we welcomed his family including mom and dad tish and gary. clint, i hope he doesn't mind, he shared that clint was
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actually born at home. these days clint works in the oil feels of north dakota. he is a man of faith and after more than a decade in uniform, he says the thing he looks forward to the most is just being a husband and a father. in fact, this is not even the biggest event for clint this week. because tomorrow he and his wife tammy will celebrate their 13th wedding anniversary. clint and tammy, this is probably not the kind of intimate anniversary you planned. but we're so glad that you're here along with your three beautiful children, desi, gwen and colin. collin is not as shy as clint. he was in the oval office and he was racing around pretty good.
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and sampled a number of the apples. before he found the one that was just right. now, to truly understand the extraordinary actions for which clint is being honored, you need to understand the almost unbelievable conditions under which he and b-troop served. this was a time in 2009 when many of our troops still served in small rugged outposts. even as our commanders were shifting to us the to larger towns an cities. so command outpost keating was a collection of buildings, concrete and plywood with trenches and sandbags. of all the outposts in afghanistan keating was among the most remote. it sat the bottom of a steep valley surrounded by mountains. terrain that later investigation
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said gave ideal coverage for insurgents to attack. cop keating, the investigation found, was tactically indefensible. but that's what these soldiers were asked to do. defend the indefensible. the attack came in the morning. just as the sun rose. some of our guys were standing guard. most like clint were still sleeping. the explosions shook them out of their beds and sent them rushing for their weapons. and soon, the awful odds became clear. these 53 americans were surrounded by more than 300 taliban fighters. what happened next has been described as one of the most intense battles of the entire war in afghanistan. the attackers had the advantage. the high ground, the mountains above. an they were unleashing everything they had. rocket propelled grenades. heavy machine. mort
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mortars. snipers taking aim. to those americans down below, the fire was coming in from every single direction. they'd never seen anything like it. with gun fire impacting all around him, clint raced to one of the bar racks and grabbed a machine gun. he took aim at one of the enemy machine teams and took it out. a rocket propelled grenade exploded, sending shrapnel in to his hip, his arm and his neck. but he kept fighting. disregarding his own wounds and tending to an injured comrade instead. then over the radio, came words no solder ever wants to hear. enemy in the wire. the taliban had penetrated the camp. they were taking over buildings. the combat was close,